A senior Iranian official has accused "dark forces" of attempting to sabotage efforts to reach a compromise between Iran and the international community on the country's nuclear program, according to the Guardian newspaper.
Seyed Abbas Araqchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, spoke with the Guardian in Tehran, ahead a new round of expert-level talks in New York this week.
While saying that Iran remained hopeful that a comprehensive agreement could be reached by the 20 July deadline, Araqch warned of remaining pitfalls, including technical issues, a chronic lack of trust between the U.S. and Iran and what he said were outside attempts to derail the process.
"There are spoilers everywhere who don't want an agreement; there are dark forces who don't like this process … It is clear some people don't want to resolve this issue in a peaceful and logical way," Araqchi said.
"I don't want to use the word 'warmongers'. But these people want continuing tension, a continuing crisis in our region. They don't want the sanctions on Iran to end. They don't want Iran to be a major player in this region, although in fact it already is."
Though Araqchi did not name any country, his remarks appeared aimed at the Israeli government, according to the Guardian correspondent. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been highly critical of the talks between Iran and the P5+1, the five permanent United Nations security council members plus Germany.
Araqchi, who is a member of Iran's three-man negotiating team, added that the negotiators were under fire within Iran, where hardliners have condemned earlier concessions. "Obviously in Iran we have a pluralistic society. There are different ideas, different opinions, there are those who believe we should not negotiate at all.
"There are some people in the Majlis [parliament] who are very critical and we must answer to them. We should let all the voices be heard," he said.
The two other members of the team are Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Majid Takht-Ravanchi, the deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs.
Araqchi said that the next top-level round of talks, due to begin in Vienna on 13 May, would be the most difficult part so far, because the parties had agreed to start writing a draft of a final agreement. The many outstanding, highly complex technical issues were all linked, he said, and it was understood that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed. "We could get 95% agreement and the last 5% could ruin everything."
Iranian President Hassan Rohani was keen for a deal in order to end sanctions, Araqchi said, but the conservative supreme leader Ali Khamenei was "not optimistic" agreement could be reached.
"Rohani has invested a lot in this, he has raised expectations … But I think people understand the complexities of the situation. I don't think it would be a big blow to Rohani if there is no agreement. People understand he has done his best."
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